Skip to main content

Full text of "Mathematical And Physical Papers - Iii"

See other formats


260                                   ABSTRACT OF  A PAPER
as internal dispersion. On admitting into this fluid a beam of sunlight condensed by a lens, he was surprised by finding the path of the rays within the fluid marked by a bright light of a blood-red colour, strangely contrasting with the beautiful green of the fluid itself when seen in moderate thickness. Sir David afterwards observed the same phenomenon in various vegetable solutions and essential oils, and in some solids. He conceived it to be due to coloured particles held in suspension. But there was one circumstance attending the phenomenon which seemed very difficult of explanation on such a supposition, namely, that the whole or a great part of the dispersed beam was unpolarized, whereas a beam reflected from suspended particles might be expected to be polarized by reflexion. And such was, in fact, the case with those beams which were plainly due to nothing but particles held in suspension. From the general identity of the circumstances attending the two phenomena, Sir David Brewster was led to conclude that epipolic was merely a particular case of internal dispersion, peculiar only in this respect, that the rays capable of dispersion were dispersed with unusual rapidity. But what rays they were which were capable of affecting a solution of sulphate of quinine, why the active rays were so quickly used up, while the dispersed rays which they produced passed freely through the fluid, why the transmitted light when subjected to prismatic analysis showed no deficiencies in those regions to which, with respect to refrangibility, the dispersed rays chiefly belonged, were questions to which the answers appeared to be involved in as much mystery as ever.
After having repeated some of the experiments of Sir David Brewster and Sir John Herschel, the author could not fail to take a most lively interest in the phenomenon. The firm conviction which he felt that two portions of light were not distinguishable as to their nature otherwise than by refrangibility and state of polarization, left him but few hypotheses to choose between, respecting the explanation of the phenomenon. In fact, having regarded it at first as an axiom that dispersed light of any particular refrangibility could only have arisen from light of the same refrangibility contained in the incident beam, he was led by necessity to adopt" hypotheses of so artificial a character as to render them wholly improbable. He was thus compelled to adopt the other alternative, namely, to suppose that in the process of